has always been a topic of disagreement among aviculturists and pet bird
owners. But what is all the confusion about? There are several
factors that play into the cage size controversy which we will examine.
Not surprisingly, one of them is money and another space. Often times
making the sale takes precedence over accurate or helpful information.
This is especially true with pet stores where you are purchasing a
parrot. Many stores will sell you what they have in stock or what's in
the customers desired price range as opposed to what is really in the best
interest of the parrot.
will often hear guidelines such as "buy the largest cage you can
afford" or "buy the largest cage you have room for." But
is that acceptable? What if you want a large macaw and the largest cage
you can afford after purchasing the bird is an 18x18 inch cage? Or the
most room you have is for a 2x2 in the den and you like Moluccan
cockatoos. The above questions set people up to fail when selecting a new
home for their feathered friend because they are both people based -
not parrot based questions. In other words the questions are asking
"how much do you want to spend?" and "how much space do you want
to give up?" Naturally people want to spend as little as possible
and take up as less of the living room, kitchen, etc as possible. So
people are really being prompted to find the smallest and cheapest cage they
can, which is conducive to making more sales....exactly what retailers
want! Think about it.
based" questions set people up to fail when selecting a cage for their
feathered friend. We need to ask "parrot based" questions
person walks into a pet store and falls in love with a beautiful baby African
Grey. When they ask about the cage, many sellers will readily agree
and encourage inadequate or uneducated choices in order to facilitate an
impulse purchase. Most sales people will usually respond with something
to the effect of "it should be fine as long as you take them out a
lot." 9 times out of 10 you will get this response. Why?
Because the reply "it's fine as long as you take them out a lot" is
really saying "the cage is too small for that bird to be in for long
periods of time." This means that they are telling you the truth no
matter how small of a cage you pick out. This is setting you up to fail
long term with parrot ownership - read more in regards to that in the
article Red Line: Keeping your bird for the
the confusion? Because after reassuring buyers that the small,
unobtrusive, affordable, cage is fine for the parrot they are interested in,
people are much more likely to buy the bird and cage on the spot because it is
small and inexpensive enough to purchase without further consideration.
If the sales clerk would respond, "No, an intelligent parrot like an
African Grey really needs a $900 cage that is a minimum of 6 ft long, a large
playgym, expensive cooked foods, and an outdoor aviary which will cost $1000 or
more." Most people would rethink an impulse purchase or opt to pass
up the baby bird all together. Better questions - parrot
based questions - need to be asked in order to encourage more appropriate
answers and give parrot owners a solid guidance system.
fine as long as you take them out a lot" is really saying "the cage
is too small for that bird to be in for long periods of time."
Another confusing issue arises due to the complexity of parrots
themselves. We have all seen the Amazon in the dirty 12x12 inch cage with
one perch and a bowl full of sunflower
seeds in a grungy basement or garage. The confusion arises because the
Amazon will still talk excitedly to visitors and sing the most entertaining
songs with tail fanned and eyes pinning in that charming trademark Amazon
way. The bird will have all of it's feathers and lives for 40
years. So it's obviously "fine" in those conditions, right?
Obviously not. But the resilience and individual personalities make
defining unacceptable conditions a shade of grey. Then we also know the
Amazon who is cherished and lives in a 3x4 cage full of toys and plucks himself
bald. These inconsistencies makes it impossible to conclusively link a
certain cage size to "parrot need" or "parrot happiness"
based on parrot feather condition or behavior alone. We need to look
further into basic behaviors exhibited in the wild that continue to occur
across all slices of captive life. For example: wing flapping. Wing
flapping occurs in wild birds, incubator hatched handfed babies, captive bred
parent-raised birds, and wild caught breeders - so we can say that birds need
to be able to flap their wings. Chewing, bonding, vocalizing, bathing,
and play behaviors are all basic parrot behaviors.
A final contributing factor to making the selection of a parrot cage clear as
mud is contradictory space requirements vs. behavior requirements. For
instance we are told the space requirements for a macaw is a 2'x3' cage, but in
the same breath they will tell you to buy a cage that accomodates the behavior
requirement of wing flapping- something a macaw can't do in a 2'x3' cage.
Confusing for sure!
According to the publication "The Large Macaws: their care and
breeding" all large
macaws have a wingspan of at least 36 inches, most greater. This means
that for a macaw to "flap it's wings in it's cage" and "to turn
around without hitting any part of their body on the cage" the cage needs
to be an absolute minimum of 40 inches by 40 inches of EMPTY
space. And I say absolute minimum because birds are very aware of their
surroundings. Many birds will not flap their wings if the cage is a tight
squeeze, nor do many birds put the time into finding the exact center of their
enclosure in order to do so. Just as you would not want to run full speed
through a door way only 2 inches larger than your shoulder width, parrots do
not like to flap in cages barely larger than their wingspans. Extra
space in needed to allow vigorous play.
However, the vast majority of recommended 'minimum size' requirements for a
large macaw continue to be 2'x3', 30"x40,"or a 3'x4' and cages
frequently labeled "macaw cages" are smaller than these
dimensions. ALL of which are inadequate to accommodate
the spacial and physical requirements for flapping and turning around
unencumbered. Likewise, African Grays and amazons have a 24-28 inch
wingspan. This makes the very typical "grey" cage, the 2'x3',
inappropriate as well.
source of confusion originates from advertising photos. A picture is worth
a 1000 words. So when we see photos of parrots on cages, we assume that
would be an appropriate size cage. Many manufacturers and retailers often
put a variety of parrots on their cages sending the message "it doesn't
matter what type of bird you put in here" to the consumer. After
all, common sense dictates, if you shouldn't house a greenwing macaw in a
32x23, why would you take a picture of the cage with two macaws on it?
Look at advertising photos from well known cage manufacturers. Confusing
The other tricky thing to note is that most all cage vendors take photos of
their cages EMPTY! This makes the cage appear larger, but we
know that our cages are not only going to have 1 perch and 1 toy in them.
Cages fill up very quickly when you put a bell, swing, wood perch, foraging
toy, boing, wood block toy, and a preening toy inside. Then add the bird
and 3 dishes of food and water. Suddenly even spreading their wings or
turning around freely is completely out of the question. Remember
when you consider your birds wingspan that you are leaving that space in the
cage completely empty. So if you are looking for a cage for your
new baby eclectus, it's 24-30 inch wingspan does not mean you buy a cage
36" wide. It means you buy a cage where 36" by 36" can be
left completely empty and then you add another 36 inches for toys, perches, and
food dishes, etc. Additionally, many books, magazines, and experts
recommend horizontal space as the most important dimension, but how many cages
are really wider than they are taller? Very few!
size recommendations are for the benefit of you, your family, and your
bird. Housing your intelligent, sensitive, playful pet in an appropriate
sized cage is your first step towards success.
when we need to ask those better questions, those parrot based questions, those
questions that so many of the most respected aviculturists, authors, and parrot
behaviorists recommend. These include things like "what size cage do
I need so my parrot can flap his wings in his cage?" and "what size
cage allows the bird to turn around without hitting any part of their body on
the cage or other items?" It also includes good recommendations such
as "cages should be wider than taller" and "the cage should be
large enough for 3 -5 perches, 3 dishes, and at least 5 toys."
So how do we pick out the right size cage with all the wrong information out
there. Here is my recommendation. Look up your birds wingspans and
then purchase a beach ball that accurately represents your birds wing flap
area. For example, if your parrot has a 24" wingspan get a ball that
has a two foot diameter. Then purchase 5 toys and 3 perches (or all the
toys and perches that you want to put in your birds cage) and start looking at
cages. Put in all the toys and perches and then see if the ball
fits. I think you will be quite shocked at how much space you need in
relation to what is typically 'recommended' for your desired species.
Also consider locomotion methods, species specific idiosyncrasies, and
energy level of your bird. Some birds like lories and cockatoos love to
hop and jump between perches. Is the cage large enough to accommodate an
obstacle free area for them to do this? Finches and bourkes need to be
able to fly between perches. Caiques and some of the African species love
to roll around upside down on the bottom of their cages. Is the cage
large enough to create a 'clear space' so they have a poop free area on the
bottom of the cage in which to play? African grays are notorious for
hanging upside down and 'fighting' with their toys. Is there a large,
clear, area of the cage available to hang a bell toy for inverted
sparring? Parrotlets are balls of energy and although they could fit in
an 12"x 12" cage their energy level necessitates a much larger
At Natural Inspirations Parrot Cages we want you to keep your parrots for the
long run. Our cage size recommendations are for the benefit of you, your
family, and your bird. Housing your intelligent, sensitive, playful pet
in an appropriate sized cage is your first step towards success. Be
realistic in your enclosure choice and start off on the right foot to save
yourself problems, frustrations, and money down the road. Read the
article Red Line for more info.
yourself up to succeed!